HP ZBook Studio G3 Owner's Review

Discussion in 'HP' started by Billy Cantor, Jan 23, 2016.

  1. Billy Cantor

    Billy Cantor Notebook Consultant

    Reputations:
    12
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    41
    Review Summary

    This is a personal review of the HP ZBook Studio G3 from a user's perspective. A number of NotebookReview forums members have questions about this machine, so I will update this review over the next few days with answers to the most frequently asked questions. I can post photos, benchmarks, etc.

    Disclaimer: I work for an engineering and design firm, not for HP. These opinions are my own and do not represent those of my employer. I alternate between engineering tools and design software, on both PCs and Macs. I have some experience with MacBook Pros, Dell Precision laptops and HP ZBooks so those perspectives (biases?) will probably show here.

    System Specs
    • Model #T6E86UT ($2899 USD)
    • Intel Xeon E3-1505M v5 (2.8GHz) with Intel HD graphics P530
    • 512 GB HP Z Turbo Drive PCIe SSD
    • 16 GB DDR4-2133 (2 x 8 GB)
    • 15.6" diagonal UHD UWVA IPS anti-glare LED-backlit (3840 x 2160)
    • NVIDIA Quadro M1000M (special edition with 4 GB dedicated GDDR5)
    • Intel 8260 ac (2x2) + Bluetooth 4.1
    • Fingerprint Reader
    • Windows 10 Pro x64
    Photos

    Top View - Exterior

    [​IMG]

    Bottom View - Exterior

    [​IMG]

    Bottom View - Taking Cover Off (vents removed)

    [​IMG]

    Bottom View - Interior


    [​IMG]

    Photo disclaimer: I added the Samsung 950 Pro in the second M.2 SSD slot. Not included with machine.

    Size Comparison (15" MacBook Pro vs. HP ZBook Studio G3)

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Billy Cantor

    Billy Cantor Notebook Consultant

    Reputations:
    12
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    41
    Benchmarks

    UHD 4K Display (non-DreamColor)

    I calibrated the display with an X-Rite i1Display Pro using the open-source dispcalGUI app. dispcalGUI also calculates the measured sRGB, Adobe RGB and CMYK gamut coverage.

    I also ran the i1Profile app to obtain luminance and contrast ratio measurements.

    Disclaimer: these results are for the display in this specific laptop. HP doesn't provide sRGB or AdobeRGB gamut guarantees for non-DreamColor displays. Your results may vary.

    For those that don't want to analyze charts: the gamut coverage is unexpectedly strong (nearly 100%) so this display can reproduce a photo's or video's intended colors with strong accuracy.

    To interpret these: the dotted outline is the profile spec. The larger multi-colored outline is the measured gamut coverage of my display.

    Luminance and Contrast
    Luminance: 251 cd/m^2
    Contrast ratio: 1068:1


    CMYK Gamut

    Coverage: 100% CMYK

    [​IMG]

    sRGB Gamut
    Coverage: 99.9% sRGB, volume: 152.5% sRGB

    [​IMG]

    AdobeRGB Gamut
    Coverage: 98.8% AdobeRGB, volume: 105.1% AdobeRGB

    [​IMG]

    512GB Z Turbo SSD Performance

    The Z Turbo SSD's performance is wicked-fast: slightly slower reads than the Samsung 950 Pro (and slightly faster writes).

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2016
  3. Billy Cantor

    Billy Cantor Notebook Consultant

    Reputations:
    12
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    41
    Opinions

    Design

    This laptop is pretty. At first glance, it doesn't scream "eye candy" as much as it does "portable workstation." But every once in a while I notice the little details and they make me smile. And after a few hours with this machine, my MacBook Pro's design is starting to feel "tired."

    The dimple pattern on the top is pretty cool, and the HP logo looks great in a dark mirrored finish. The lid doesn't look like any other laptop that I've seen--and I think that will catch a few eyes.

    The bottom of the laptop is my favorite, design-wise. HP did a slick job of integrating the regulatory info and product info (including serial number) in printed gray text right down the centerline of the darker-gray case bottom. The Windows sticker sticks out a little bit, but it's not too bad.

    The pyramid pattern throughout the bottom half of the laptop's bottomside is really interesting to look at, and the mesh pattern (alternating inverted triangles over a mesh of circles) is pretty cool. Speaking of cool: I believe that the bottom vents are intake, with the large heat exhaust vents hidden inside the lid hinge area.

    A few nice design touches:
    • When the laptop is plugged in, an LED next to the power barrel jack lights up...no need to figure out which of the LEDs on the front are for power.
    • HP put "Mobile Workstation" in small print right on the back edge. "Hi, I'm not just pretty: I'm a powerful laptop." Nice touch.
    • The hinge design is pretty great. One long, sturdy, confidence-giving hinge.
    • The "Bang & Olufsen" text on the display bezel is in a darker gray text, putting the world on notice that this laptop has premium sound while itself fading into the background.
    • The trackpad is big. Really big. More on this below.
    A few design gripes:
    1. The power barrel jack (on the right side) is an inch or so from the back edge. The AC adapter's plug is a right-angle plug, so this works great when the cable is fed from the reverse side of the machine. But it's also a bit more difficult to find in a dark room and combined with the right-angle plug a bit awkward when setting down the machine. Also: if the cable is right-angle-facing-forward for some reason, the USB-C ports are blocked.
    2. The trackpad may be a bit too big. If that's possible. More on this below.
    Trackpad

    Wow, this trackpad is huge. I love it. It's even larger than my previous favorite, the (late 2015) MacBook Pro's trackpad.

    A few things to be aware of:

    The trackpad is slightly off-center to the left, centered under the main part of the keyboard (i.e. excluding the home/pgup/pgdn/end column of keys). If you've used a MacBook for a long time, shifting your hands left a tiny bit may take a little getting used to. And you might "right-click" when trying to "left-click" the first few times, since the hit areas for both "mouse buttons" are so wide and simultaneously slightly-off-center. I got used to that in a few hours.

    And because the trackpad is so large, I keep resting the edge of my palm on the corner of its surface. This leads to a ghost-cursor roaming across my screen at times, and it also leads to accidental zooming every once in a while when I'm trying to move the cursor. There's no reason this can't be fixed via software (i.e. palm rejection) and there may already be a setting that will deal with this. To be revisited.

    The trackpad has no buttons. Like the MacBook and like the Precision 5510s, the trackpad physically "clicks". I was worried about the quality of this experience, since there are no secondary buttons as a backup. But so far, those fears are completely unfounded: this trackpad is really great. And according to Windows, it's officially a Precision Touchpad.

    In comparison to the MacBook Pro, the ZBook Studio G3's trackpad is less "glassy-smooth". The trackpad quality, precision and responsiveness however is similar to both MacBook Pro and the Precision 5510.

    Keyboard

    I love this keyboard. I had a lot of troubles with the Precision 5510 keyboard (especially with having to really bang on the spacebar key to get consistent results). And I really miss the lack of dedicated Home/PgUp/PgDn/End keys on my MacBook. HP solved all those problems for me with the ZBook Studio G3's keyboard.

    The key travel feels good. And no mush. The key quality isn't as amazing as the MacBook Pro's key quality, but I have no gripes about the keys. Overall, everything just works. I am a happy camper. So so much happier than with the new Dell keyboard.

    For those of you with previous ZBooks, HP has made the Fn keys just as wide as regular keys with this keyboard: so you may need to relearn the position of the right-most Fn keys. Not a biggie. BTW, having a dedicated PrintScreen key is pretty great for those of us who take a lot of screenshots.

    On the arrow keys: the up/down arrow keys are a little smaller top-to-bottom than on earlier ZBooks. And they're pretty wide so that makes them look small and hard to hit. I have medium-sized fingers and have had no issues hitting the right keys there without looking.

    Display

    I love and not-quite-as-much-love the display. The sRGB and AdobeRGB gamut coverage is pretty awesome and the display technically has great viewing angles. But I have a few gripes.

    The first issue is the viewing angle. Yes, it has great viewing angles. But I've been spoiled by my MacBook Pro. I wouldn't really recommend this laptop for a bunch of friends watching a movie together on a couch because the brightness fades more than I'm used to for side-viewers.

    My bigger issue, honestly, is the unbalanced white level. Windows 10 does have an RGB balance setting (in the Color Calibration app) which lets you tweak the white level. I tested an older ZBook which had really good white level balance. But for some reason this machine has a really strong propensity to drive up its green balance.

    Overall, if you love display quality I have one recommendation: get the UHD panel and get an X-Rite ColorMunki Display (or a Spyder...or a i1Display Pro...something quality). And then take 15 minutes and let dispcalGUI measure and calibrate your display.

    Fully calibrated, I really like this display. It still feels a little bit off being matte (vs. anti-reflective gloss on the MacBook Pro) but oh my goodness do rich 4K YouTube videos look fantastic :)

    Speakers

    I also have a mixed review on the speakers. Compared to the grinding front-blasting speakers on the Precision 5510, the ZBook Studio G3's speakers offer much nicer sound. But they're also fairly quiet. I watched Adele's "Hello" on Vevo with both my MacBook Pro and my ZBook Studio G3, cranked up all the way, and the MacBook Pro was much much louder. That said I think the accuracy of the ZBook's speakers may have been better.

    There may be some settings which will amplify the sound. When I checked the Sound applet, the actual output wasn't above 20% most of the time. Maybe HP is trying to preserve sound quality by ensuring the speakers never "clip" at the top end of the range. To be revisited.

    Self-upgrades

    I wanted to add a second fast SSD to my machine, to use in a wicked-fast RAID 0 array. The older ZBooks had sliding backs which made it fast and easy to replace and upgrade parts. This machine requires a T9 screwdriver and a few minutes to open up.

    If you do replace or add parts in your machine, it is pretty important to follow the correct procedure to drain power out of your laptop before inserting/removing anything. The battery does not have a "stick paper clip in hole to disconnect battery" pinhole.

    Before adding/removing/replacing parts: unplug AC adapter; unscrew battery; gently remove battery; unplug the battery's really nice power cable; open laptop and hold down the power button for 15-30 seconds to drain power capacitors in the system. Also make sure you're grounded.

    After adding/removing/replacing parts: plug the battery back in; slide the battery down so that you don't pinch its power cable; screw all the battery screws back in; power back up the laptop on battery power or AC--your choice. If you want to quickly test the new configuration, you can leave out the battery temporarily--but you should consider unplugging the AC adapter and pressing the power button for 15-30 seconds to drain the power capacitors again before attaching the battery. These machines are expensive: take care.

    Support


    Apparently the ZBooks come with "Elite Support". As HP puts it, you call and get a real human with no long wait lines. And you can even ask for support reps by name. I called. He was super-helpful. We probably shouldn't call unless we need actual support. Two thumbs up :)

    2.5" Drive Option

    HP did not solder the 2.5" drive connector on the circuit board for this machine. If you want to use a 2.5" drive (instead of an M.2 SSD in the second SSD slot) I highly recommend ordering the laptop with a 2.5" (SATA) drive. In contrast, my machine did come with a small riser adapter and extra screw for a second SSD.

    BTW, there's a lot of empty room in the chassis when no 2.5" SATA drive is installed. I hope that HP fills that space with an extra-large battery option in the future. With super-fast 1TB SSDs on the horizon, a lot of people would probably prefer even longer battery life.

    Summary

    I really like this laptop. When HP says that they built this laptop from the ground up as a workstation (instead of what Dell did...rebranding the XPS as a Precision), I believe them. And having 3 years of parts, labor and on-site service warranty with an elite support phone # is pretty cool too.

    I have a few gripes. I wish the speakers went to 11. I wish that HP wouldn't make me wait to buy accidental damage coverage (since it wasn't loaded in the system in time for my order). I wish that the display was a DreamColor display. I wish that the laptop was cheaper :) But overall, after looking at pretty much every workstation option and trying a few in person, I am really happy with this machine.

    If you'd like me to test something out, run extra benchmark, etc. just reply to this thread and let me know in the next few days. I know that some of you are equally as excited as me about this new laptop (and some of you are torn between this and the Precision 5510 like I was).
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2016
  4. Charles P. Jefferies

    Charles P. Jefferies TG Lead Moderator Super Moderator

    Reputations:
    14,255
    Messages:
    35,964
    Likes Received:
    1,886
    Trophy Points:
    581
    Thanks much for posting your review and thoughts, and for the crystal clear pics.

    Charles
     
  5. JimH823

    JimH823 Newbie

    Reputations:
    0
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    5
    Billy - Great review. Thanks so much for sharing. Just a quick question about the trackpad - how much ability, if any, do you have to configure different gestures (tap zones, etc.)? Or is everything pretty much set?
     
  6. Billy Cantor

    Billy Cantor Notebook Consultant

    Reputations:
    12
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    41
    What options are you looking for in particular?

    The touchpad is a Precision Touchpad but by default it runs the Alps touchpad driver in "GlidePoint TouchPad" mode instead of the Microsoft-standard "Precision TouchPad" mode.

    Screenshot - Control Panel > Devices > Mouse & touchpad

    [​IMG]

    ScreenShot - Alps GlidePoint settings

    [​IMG]

    What else can I try or look up for you?
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  7. KenFVA

    KenFVA Newbie

    Reputations:
    0
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    5
    Great review and pictures. Any thoughts on battery life?
     
  8. Billy Cantor

    Billy Cantor Notebook Consultant

    Reputations:
    12
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    41
    I also confirmed that this laptop does include the special-edition NVidia Quadro M1000M with 4GB of GDDR5 RAM (double the normal RAM).

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Billy Cantor

    Billy Cantor Notebook Consultant

    Reputations:
    12
    Messages:
    153
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    41
    Which benchmark is best for testing battery life under Windows 10?

    If there's no good benchmark, what kind of tests should I run? Watching movies on Netflix?
     
  10. kjozsa

    kjozsa Notebook Enthusiast

    Reputations:
    0
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    5
    Excellent review Billy, thank you. The Z drive looks like a keeper ;)

    How about fan noise and chassis temperatures when loaded? Can you share a few thoughts on these too, especially comparing to the competition?
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2016
Loading...

Share This Page